Thoughts on Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack

In the interest of integrity and transparency, I am a Nintendo shareholder. This does not influence my stance or opinion on NSO, but take that as you will.

Nintendo revealed the date and price of their new tier of Nintendo Switch Online during today’s Animal Crossing Direct. I have seen plenty of thoughts and opinions on Twitter and in my main friend Discord. I have my own “hot takes.” In the spirit of this site though, I am writing my thoughts here instead of some thread on Twitter.

Name

It’s a bad name. It’s a cute, historic reference. Still is a bad name.

Plan and Strategy

The plan was originally pitched as NSO with N64 and Sega Genesis games included. Now after the Animal Crossing Direct, we know that the new tier includes the paid DLC expansion Happy Home Paradise. I’ll talk about the pricing below, but first, I want to focus on the actual strategy and implementation.

Adding more consoles was always the obvious plan for NSO, even if the game offerings don’t include the obvious and become lackluster in the later months. Nintendo 64 was the obvious next step and Genesis is a pleasant surprise. With all the rumors circulating earlier this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if Game Boy games join the service before too long.

When that happens, what tier would those be added to? The standard membership or the Expansion Pack? Genesis fits in the higher priced level due to the associated cost of licensing. I understand the logic behind sticking the 3D N64 games there too, despite them all being 20~ years old. Does the Game Boy line get split between the two levels, with Game Boy and Game Boy Color being a part of the cheaper package and Game Boy Advance entering the more expensive one? I would hope not. One could only dream of GameCube games being added to the service someday.

The truly interesting bit is the day one inclusion of Animal Crossing’s paid DLC. It’s truly Game Pass in nature to include major first-party releases into the subscription service. But the DLC can be purchased by itself for $25. While Nintendo may incentivize players to upgrade for one year, how will they keep them paying year-over-year?

I would think that they’d continue to add new (and old) expansion content for their games. Maybe we see Breath of the Wild’s DLC get added. Maybe the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Fighter Passes are included by the end of next year. Assuming Splatoon 3 has paid DLC, we could see that added as an incentive. It’s easy to imagine a future where new Mario Kart courses and drivers are offered as a reason to stay subscribed.

Nintendo also gets to keep their precious, full-priced sales on their first-party software, unlike Microsoft and Game Pass. With the inclusion of Happy Home Paradise, Nintendo may be offering a glimpse into their plans for bolstering NSO in 2022. The surge of new and upgraded subscriptions next month will be good for Nintendo, but I’m far more interested in how they will try to keep subscribers paying $50 or $80 a year.

Pricing

Yeah. They’ve more than doubled the price of NSO’s individual and family plans. While the entry plans will still be available at $20 and $35, respectively, the plans that include the “Expansion Pack” cost $50 and $80, respectively. Peter Spezia nailed the pricing on Episode 12: Twitter Tea Leaves on The Max Frequency Podcast.

Initially, you look at the price of Happy Home Paradise and say “Oh, the DLC is the $25 and the old games are $5.” And sure, that is technically true for the first year. But what about year two and so on? You could just buy the DLC individually and pay for the cheaper plan to enjoy online play. If I wasn’t in a family plan, that’s what I’d do.

What about those roughly 120~ million Switch owners that don’t have Animal Crossing and/or do not want the DLC, but do want those N64 and Genesis games? They have to pay double to be granted access. It’s a ridiculous ask for those types of consumers to pay for that.

Who knows what kind of money Nintendo is paying Sega, Konami, and Microsoft to include there games in perpetuity on NSO? This pricing doesn’t say to me that Nintendo is really taking a major hit on those fees, instead likely passing them off to their consumers.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow. Nintendo should expand the offerings in this plan in 2022 to retain folks that upgrade. Only time will tell with the Big N though.

Personally, I’ll be upgrading our family plan to the Expansion Pack. I want to have those N64 games with online play and upscaled graphics. I have a clear soft spot for the console, as it was my first. Plus, Abby will want the Animal Crossing DLC, so financially, it makes sense to upgrade at the discounted rate and enjoy it for a year. As for resubscribing in 2022, that’s going to depend entirely how NSO expands and evolves.